31 March 2011

Food for Lazy Days

We are a week into spring, but it feels more like summer. While many fellow Californians are basking in the blazing sunshine of this apparent heatwave, I'm not quite ready to part with the cooler temperatures that have suddenly disappeared. The muggy warmth is undoubtedly making me feel just a little sluggish. Here's a no-fuss, one-pot homage to summer to complement that heat-induced tendency to slink into a lazy mental fog. If you're like me, waiting for the real spring to arrive, batch of these beer-simmered beans will fill you up.
Tipsy Black Beans (printer-friendly)
Yields 4 servings

2 tsp canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
12 oz beer
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp maple syrup
1 strip (1- to 2-in square) kombu, wiped down gently with damp cloth
1 bay leaf
1 T cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime

Heat oil in a medium-sized pot over medium-low heat. Saute the onion until soft and slightly caramelized, add garlic, and saute for an additional minute. Take the pot off the heat to carefully add the beer. Place pot over medium heat and add remaining ingredients except lime juice. Bring the contents of the pot to a strong simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, and allow the beans to simmer steadily for 20-25 min. Remove kombu and bay leaf. Add lime juice. Serve hot. Enjoy!

24 March 2011

Eats of the Week

With the intensity of worldly events lately, it has been all too easy for me to feel more than a bit disconnected from my normal food enthusiasm. But I haven't lost it completely; the compulsion to engage in full-blown kitchen mode is rather sporadic, but detectable nonetheless. Developing the focus to share it in a cohesive way is another issue, but in time, inspiration will hit, and new life will spring forth from this humble space in the food blog universe. Maybe a photo summary will get some creativity flowing...
How do you stay motivated? What have you cooked up lately? Do tell; I'd love to hear from you!

17 March 2011

A Moment

For Japan With Love, a disaster relief project launched by Utterly Engaged and Ever Ours, is accepting donations to benefit the relief effort in Japan and encourages pledges for tomorrow's Bloggers Day of Silence. On this day (18 March 2011), participating bloggers pledge not to post anything on their blogs, to honor all those individuals and families affected by the ongoing crisis in Japan. Silent gestures of solidarity and respect speak volumes about our shared humanity and interconnectedness as a global family; they remind us to hope, to love, and to know that  in unity we can overcome the difficulties confronting us.
Please visit For Japan With Love and this update at Ever Ours for additional information about becoming involved. Thank you.

[Image via Utterly Engaged]

16 March 2011

The Green Routine

I don't normally celebrate St. Patrick's Day and am still very much feeling the intensity and weight of the current situation in Japan. However, I could some lighthearted distraction, so consider this a remotely holiday-related post.

Last week, a colleague noted that our next meeting would occur on St. Patrick's Day, playfully reminding me to wear green. Indeed, St. Patrick's day is commonly associated with all things green, which coincides nicely with the trademark hue of emerging spring. I have been taking advantage of the recent abundance of seasonal produce, eating my fill of leafy greens such as rainbow chard, Tuscan kale, and spinach. I am gradually developing a taste for Brussels sprouts, too. Earlier today, I enjoyed the Shaved Brussels Sprouts from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's latest cookbook, Appetite for Reduction (2010). Despite being incredibly simple to prepare, the end result was a flavorful interplay of savory, sweet, and bitter flavors.
Asparagus is also making its seasonal appearance, and fits appropriately with the green theme. I prefer it roasted and seasoned merely with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Roasting enhances the natural sweetness of the asparagus, which again pairs nicely with the salty and tangy flavors of the seasoning.
Besides everything suddenly adopting a green hue for the day, potatoes often figure into the edible side of St. Patrick's Day. Last week, an effort to avoid wasting leftover boiled Yukon gold potatoes resulted in "Cheesy" Potato Patties. Crispy but creamy, tangy and fresh, these starchy little discs are quite snack-worthy. They are easy to prepare and can be just as easily customized with other herbs and spices to fit one's preferences.

“Cheesy” Potato Patties (printer-friendly)
Yields 8 patties

2 c mashed Yukon gold potatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 T green onion, chopped
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp paprika
½ tsp lemon zest
¼ to ½ tsp sriracha
¼ c bread crumbs
2 T nutritional yeast flakes
1 flax “egg” (1 T milled flax seed combined with 3 T warm water)
¼ c mozzarella-style vegan “cheese,” diced or shredded (I used Teese.)
Oil for the baking sheet or skillet

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C and lightly oil a baking sheet. Iif pan-frying, lightly oil a skillet and set it over medium heat.

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, garlic, parsley, green onion, salt, black pepper, paprika, lemon zest, sriracha, bread crumbs, nutritional yeast flakes, and flax “egg,” mixing well to distribute the ingredients (clean hands work best). The mixture should be a bit sticky but hold together; add more bread crumbs if the mixture feels unmanageably wet. Mix in the vegan “cheese.” Divide the mixture into eight pieces, patting each into a disc that is ¼”- to ½”-inch thick, 2 ½ to 3 inches in diameter.

To bake: Place patties on the prepared baking sheet, lightly oil the tops, and bake for 15 minutes. Carefully flip the patties and bake for any additional 15 minutes. The exterior should be golden-brown and firm.

To pan-fry: Cook in a lightly-oiled skillet over medium heat until each side of the patties is golden-brown.

Serve hot and enjoy!
And if you need fancy yourself a drink to wash down those festive eats, I recommend skipping the cheap, artificially green-tinted booze in favor of vegan Irish cream, which is best enjoyed over ice (in moderation, of course). I whipped up a batch using this recipe from Epicurious Vegan.
I hope you all have a pleasant week. If you plan to partake in St. Patrick's Day festivities, have fun and please celebrate safely.

P.S. I decided to give tumblr another go, so if you feel like reading about some of the non-edible things I think about, check out my other blog: writtenatrandom.tumblr.com

11 March 2011

Love and Warm Thoughts

As is the case of many other people, my heart has been heavy with sadness following the news of both the earthquake-related destruction in New Zealand a few weeks ago and is heavier still from the earthquake- and tsunami-related devastation ongoing in Japan. Warm thoughts and love go out to those individuals and families affected by these catastrophic events.
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In light of the somber nature of recent events, a personal frustration like a computer problem is downright petty. But with few positives to note at the moment, I am clinging to resolution of the technology issue from earlier in the week as a point of optimism, however small and insignificant it is in the grand scheme of all that is happening. For lack of appropriate words and as an attempt to end this post on a more positive note, I'll simply post some food shots from the week.
Take care, all. I hope the broken hearts out in the world can find some sort of comfort, as well as reason and means to heal.

07 March 2011

Technology fail

It's official: my laptop, in which my music, photos, important documents, and at least half of my notes/lists (from which my creativity manifests into something more tangible) are stored, is ailing considerably. In other words, it's nonfunctional and requires servicing, if not replacement. Although I'm able to access the Internet through other avenues--at the moment, I'm using someone else's computer--my photos and other more interesting aspects of this forum are trapped in that thing that has inescapably become one of the few possessions I consider "mine"; my laptop is my primary source of distant connection, news about the world at large--my means of communicating with friends, loved ones, acquaintances, colleagues with whom our respective situations in life have put us at varied physical distances.

So, dear friends and readers, I apologize for what will seem like lazy neglect of this blog. I truly intend to do some more substantial upkeep of this space, and will attempt just that once I am able to retrieve whatever I had not yet backed up on my own computer (I hope this will happen by the end of the week). Thankfully, I'll still have a bit of Internet time throughout the week, so please don't hesitate to browse the blog, leave comments, or drop me a line via email. Thanks, as always, for visiting. Have a lovely week.

02 March 2011

March Love Drop: Katie

Great news: the February Love Drop was a success! In a single month, the Love Drop Team raised over $13,000 (and three iPads) to help two little boys with autism receive a service dog. Thank you to everyone who helped make a positive impact for Ethan, Alex, and their family, who were so appreciative and beyond touched! The final video of the Love Drop Team's arrival at their house can be found here; watch it and be inspired to reach out to your community.

Speaking of which, we begin March with another Love Drop mission: Katie is a single mom living in Dallas, battling two brain tumors (one is gone and she's working on number two), hydrocephalus, and a daunting stack of accompanying medical bills. This month, Love Drop teams up with Blissdom, with the goal of gathering the community to throw some love in Katie's direction while hopefully helping to pay off some of those medical bills. Take a look at her video introduction below.

Here are some ways you could help:
  1. Give $1.00 - This is the best way to help out and join our team at the same time.
  2. Join our blogger network - Blog about our Love Drops each month (like me). It's easy, rewarding, and really helps spread the word (which in turn helps our families). Love Drop will give you all the content you need.
  3. Give a gift or provide a service - Gift cards are always helpful. Places like Target, Safeway, gas stations, etc. would definitely help them out.
Please open your hearts to your fellow human beings--after all, we're all part of one giant community, right?--and if you can, contribute to this month's Love Drop mission. Go spread the word and drop some love! Thanks!
[Image courtesy of Love Drop]